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22 June, 2006

Review: War Of The Worlds (2005)

That was odd.  For a lightweight blockbuster, it was almost experimental, but in my opinion, the experiment failed.

I haven't read the original book, so I don't know whether H.G. Wells took the same approach, but the film describes an alien invasion from the point of view of one man, a New Jersey dock worker with no government or military contacts and hence no understanding of the overall situation*.
In theory, that's a nice idea, and the audience could become immersed in the 'everyman' experience. Unfortunately, the execution doesn't match the concept. The intention seemed to be to focus on character instead of spectacle, whilst remaining led by the visuals. Maybe one can have it both ways, but Spielberg didn't manage it here.

When a significant part of that experience is struggling through fleeing crowds or hiding in a cellar, it's not particularly thrilling, and puts extra pressure on the script/direction. For a superficial Tom Cruise vehicle directed by Steven Spielberg (i.e. written by committee, edited by focus group and lowest-common-denominator all the way) marketed as an 'action movie', that's a problem.

I don't have some snobbish objection to films which solely entertain without challenging an audience to think; visceral, emotional responses are as valid as intellectual ones, and pure entertainment is fine. Yet this didn't entertain. Even by the standards of a modern blockbuster with a skeletal story linking set-piece CGI showcases, the plot is weak and diminished by intrusively unlikeable characters. That doesn't leave much.

*: I think Wells' narrator was a journalist with official contacts, which justified greater exposition. Lacking that, the film struggled.


I'm still waiting for a proper 'period' version, set in the same late Victorian Britain as the book.

I hate the way Hollywood and it's stupid focus groups always insist on everything being transplanted to America.

Posted by Tim Hall at June 22, 2006 01:03 PM
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